Joseph Mallord William Turner

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 181 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVIII 64

Catalogue entry

The publisher Robert Cadell recorded in his diary on 1 October 1834 that Turner met him at his office at eleven o’clock before they set off together at half past one ‘to see Heriot’s Hospital then at High St to Castle Hill – from thence down by Grassmarket’.1 This is one of the two sketches that Turner made of the castle from the Grassmarket in this sketchbook (see folio 79; D26245). There is also a similar view in the Stirling and Edinburgh sketchbook: Tate D26334 (Turner Bequest CCLXIX 39a). The castle itself, seen above the houses at the top of the page, is only vaguely indicated in this sketch, which instead concentrates on the buildings in the market place. The sketch on folio 79 depicts the castle in detail from the same view, and therefore fills in the detail that is left out of the current drawing.
Turner has noted the shop and business names of the buildings at the lower centre of the sketch, which include the ‘Black Bull’ inn, which is still there today. Turner had made an almost identical sketch in 1818 (Tate D13410; Turner Bequest CLXV 49a).
The Grassmarket may have been considered as a possible illustration to Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Heart of Midlothian, previous editions of which had been illustrated with engravings of the Grassmarket.2
See folio 63 verso (D26218) for references to further sketches of Edinburgh Castle in this book.

Thomas Ardill
November 2010

Robert Cadell, Diary 1834, Wednesday 1 October 1834, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh MS 21024, folio 42.
For example see James Skene, A Series of Sketches of the Existing Localities alluded to in the Waverley Novels Etched from Original Drawings, Edinburgh 1830, facing p.84. This book was published by Robert Cadell, who had commissioned Turner to illustrate his proposed new edition of Scott’s Waverley Novels (the so-called ‘Abbotsford edition’), though in the event the edition was not illustrated by Turner, and the Grassmarket was not selected as the illustration.

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